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Selwyn Cook and Lesley Lewis are volunteers for Hospice Waikato and say that giving back has done them a world of good. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

National Volunteer Week: Waihī volunteer doing well by doing good

A “feather in the wind”, Lesley Lewis is following the path being paved for her by Hospice Waikato.
The Waihī woman and budding writer started volunteering for the charitable trust in April, and said that thanks to the people she’s met along the way, her dynamic self is starting to make a comeback.
“I used to be a dynamo,” she told The Profile, “but my stuffing has been taken out of me. I’m just starting to stuff myself back up and hopefully the dynamo will come back again one day.”

Lesley said her initial impression of hospice care in New Zealand was that it just existed to give patients “a quick and painless end”, but her mind was opened after meeting a fellow volunteer. The man who changed Lesley’s perception was Hamilton-based Selwyn Cook, who has been a volunteer with Hospice since he lost his first wife to cancer.
He’s at the in-patient unit every Wednesday evening, carting around the liquor trolley and telling dad jokes.
“When I went in with my wife who was in the last stages of her life, I expected this sad, ‘death’s-waiting’ room, and it was the opposite. It was upbeat, it was happy, and my wife’s wellness just improved within hours.

“They have an absolute focus on patients living life to the utmost,” he said.
“I was absolutely drawn to that in-patient unit, and I want to volunteer until the day I can’t anymore.”
Lesley and Selwyn met through Selwyn’s work in Waihī. As a disability employment facilitator, he asked Lesley if she would consider volunteering – because while there are 650 volunteers for Hospice in the Waikato, there is a shortage of helpers from Hauraki.
Lesley has since become a companion to a woman in Waihi and a ‘my life, my story’ writer for the charitable trust.
“[My companion] is doing as much for me as I’m doing for her,” she said.
“She’s helping me learn how to have more confidence. I’ve lost all my guts and I’m starting to find them again, so if I can help people, the flip-side is that they help me.”
Composing life stories for patients is also a win-win for Lesley, who has ambitions to be a writer.
The service’s aim is to record the stories of patients in their own words, preparing a finalised bound transcript for the family to keep.
“I’m a feather in the wind and I’m just going with the flow with this,” Lesley said.
“It is leading me down a path and there’s got to be a reason for that.”
Hospice Waikato’s manager of volunteer services Karen Mansfield said anyone affected by a terminal illness and in need of specialist palliative care may be referred to hospice.
“Our patients and their whānau are supported by our team of specialist palliative medicine doctors, nurses, counsellors, and social workers – as well as volunteers like Lesley.
“The majority of our patients are cared for in their own homes and to do this we need support from the community.”
Hospice Waikato is currently looking for volunteers who are able to give a couple of hours a week to be a companion or visitor for a patient, or to sit down with a patient while a carer attends to other errands.
DETAILS: If you would like to volunteer, please contact Karen on 021 769 475, or to enquire about local hospice services, contact 0800 HOSPICE (0800 4677 423).